FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — School District 60’s Senior Band returned from MusicFest Canada Nationals, held in Niagara Falls, Ontario with two silver awards and memories that will last a lifetime.
The band, comprised of students in grades 10 to 12, attended the invitation-only festival in Niagra Falls earlier this month for the first time since 1983.
The concert band scored 91 per cent on their performance on May 15th, earning them their first silver award of the festival. During this performance, band student Tessa Wilkinson won a special honour student award for conducting and playing the clarinet.
Wilkinson said winning the award has given her more confidence to potentially pursue music professionally.
“I would say [it gives] me a lot of encouragement and motivation to pursue more music as a career and get more opportunities with it,” Wilkinson said, adding that she’s interested in teaching music.
On May 16th, the district’s jazz band’s performance received a 90 per cent, culminating in the band’s second silver award.
Trombonist Jess Giesbrecht won a top student award, while Molly Koponyas, who was selected as one of the top three tuba players in all of Canada under the age of 22, had the opportunity to rehearse with internationally famous musicians through the Denis Wick Canadian Wind Orchestra.
Band instructors Sabrina Brooks and Dave Price said after the performances, they attended a meeting with some of the organizers of the festival, who were reportedly impressed with the community spirit of Fort St. John and the senior band.
“Even though maybe musically we weren’t the ones that took the gold, they thought that we had the best spirit. The bus driver said we were one of her best groups,” Brooks stated.
“There was an element of jealousy with some of the people who are more local to the Toronto, Ontario area, just for the community spirit of Fort St. John. I’ll always remember how the community came together for these kids.”
Every student in the band was able to go on the trip thanks to donations from the community, which totalled $35,000 — half of the cost of the trip.
“I was just really happy to have the chance to share this experience with all these students, and I once again want to thank all of the members of the community that supported us in getting up there because it was really only possible because of the support that we had,” said Price, who attended MusicFest Canada when he was a student.
Students also had the chance to do some sightseeing on their trip, paying a visit to Niagara Falls and a butterfly conservatory.
“I definitely really liked going behind the waterfalls and going towards them because it’s always been like such an interesting thing to me as a child being like, oh wow, look at those pretty waterfalls and then actually being able to see them and feel the water on your skin, it’s beautiful,” Wilkinson said.
For some students, the trip was one of the first times they’ve been on a plane or even left the province.
“For most of the kids, this is their first plane ride. For almost everyone, this was the furthest they’d gone. It was a trip of a lifetime, not just for the music, which was super amazing,” Brooks said
To learn more about the student’s experiences on the trip, view the video below: